Coalition senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has fallen short of distancing herself from controversial No campaigner Gary Johns, weeks after he drew ire over comments he made.
At last month’s CPAC conference, Mr Johns, the president of anti-Voice group Recognise a Better Way – claimed some Indigenous communities were living in “stupor” and recommended they “learn English” if they wanted a Voice.
His comments were widely panned – including by a number of Coalition members – but when Senator Price fronted the media on Tuesday she said there were things Mr Johns had said that she “agreed with”.
“Indigenous kids whose first language is not English need to be able to understand and read and write and learn English to participate in a modern Australia for the benefit of their future employment opportunities to participate in society. That is a pertinent point,” she said.
“I’m absolutely in agreement with the fact that Indigenous kids need to be able to learn to read and write English for the benefit of their future.”
After Mr Johns made the comments, Anthony Albanese said it was “of concern” that he held such a prominent role in the No campaign.
“I am concerned about a whole range of comments that Gary Johns has made, not just on the weekend but over a long period of time when it comes to a failure to show any respect for Indigenous Australians,” the Prime Minister said last month.
Asked whether she was comfortable with Mr Johns remaining a leading figure in the No campaign – with a journalist noting other comments he has made about Indigenous people needing to take blood tests to receive welfare payments, for example – Senator Price would not be drawn.
“People can have their own opinions,” she said, before moving to chastise the media for asking questions on a topic other than the matter she wished to discuss.
When pressed further on whether Mr Johns’ opinions were acceptable, Senator Price said: “I’m not concerned with the opinions of others.”
Senator Price, alongside the opposition’s education spokeswoman Sarah Henderson, called the press conference to discuss a report in The Daily Telegraph that revealed Aboriginal school Yipirinya had its hopes of building a satellite school on country dashed due to unequal school funding across the Northern Territory.
The school was relying on its share of $40m in education funding announced by the Albanese government earlier this year as rising youth crime took hold of Central Australia. While some schools received $1.5m, Yipirinya is reportedly set to receive only $329,000.
Originally published as Jacinta Price ‘agrees’ with Gary Johns, says Indigenous children need to be able to learn English